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Paul Merrell

WikiLeaks - Vault 7: Projects - 0 views

  • Today, March 31st 2017, WikiLeaks releases Vault 7 "Marble" -- 676 source code files for the CIA's secret anti-forensic Marble Framework. Marble is used to hamper forensic investigators and anti-virus companies from attributing viruses, trojans and hacking attacks to the CIA.

    Marble does this by hiding ("obfuscating") text fragments used in CIA malware from visual inspection. This is the digital equivallent of a specalized CIA tool to place covers over the english language text on U.S. produced weapons systems before giving them to insurgents secretly backed by the CIA.

    Marble forms part of the CIA's anti-forensics approach and the CIA's Core Library of malware code. It is "[D]esigned to allow for flexible and easy-to-use obfuscation" as "string obfuscation algorithms (especially those that are unique) are often used to link malware to a specific developer or development shop."

    The Marble source code also includes a deobfuscator to reverse CIA text obfuscation. Combined with the revealed obfuscation techniques, a pattern or signature emerges which can assist forensic investigators attribute previous hacking attacks and viruses to the CIA. Marble was in use at the CIA during 2016. It reached 1.0 in 2015.

  • The source code shows that Marble has test examples not just in English but also in Chinese, Russian, Korean, Arabic and Farsi. This would permit a forensic attribution double game, for example by pretending that the spoken language of the malware creator was not American English, but Chinese, but then showing attempts to conceal the use of Chinese, drawing forensic investigators even more strongly to the wrong conclusion, --- but there are other possibilities, such as hiding fake error messages.

    The Marble Framework is used for obfuscation only and does not contain any vulnerabilties or exploits by itself.

  •  
    But it was the Russians who hacked the 2016 U.S. election. Really.
Paul Merrell

'Pardon Snowden' Campaign Takes Off As Sanders, Ellsberg, And Others Join - 0 views

  • Prominent activists, lawmakers, artists, academics, and other leading voices in civil society, including Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), are joining the campaign to get a pardon for National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    “The information disclosed by Edward Snowden has allowed Congress and the American people to understand the degree to which the NSA has abused its authority and violated our constitutional rights,” Sanders wrote for the Guardian on Wednesday. “Now we must learn from the troubling revelations Mr. Snowden brought to light. Our intelligence and law enforcement agencies must be given the tools they need to protect us, but that can be done in a way that does not sacrifice our rights.”

    Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, who co-founded the public interest journalism advocacy group Freedom of the Press Foundation, where Snowden is a board member, also wrote, “Ed Snowden should be freed of the legal burden hanging over him. They should remove the indictment, pardon him if that’s the way to do it, so that he is no longer facing prison.”

    Snowden faces charges under the Espionage Act after he released classified NSA files to media outlets in 2013 exposing the U.S. government’s global mass surveillance operations. He fled to Hong Kong, then Russia, where he has been living under political asylum for the past three years.

  • The Pardon Snowden campaign, supported by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Amnesty International, and Human Rights Watch (HRW), urgespeople around the world to write to Obama throughout his last four months in the White House.
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    If you want to take part, the action page is at https://www.pardonsnowden.org/
Paul Merrell

For sale: Systems that can secretly track where cellphone users go around the globe - T... - 0 views

  • Makers of surveillance systems are offering governments across the world the ability to track the movements of almost anybody who carries a cellphone, whether they are blocks away or on another continent.

    The technology works by exploiting an essential fact of all cellular networks: They must keep detailed, up-to-the-minute records on the locations of their customers to deliver calls and other services to them. Surveillance systems are secretly collecting these records to map people’s travels over days, weeks or longer, according to company marketing documents and experts in surveillance technology.

  • The world’s most powerful intelligence services, such as the National Security Agency and Britain’s GCHQ, long have used cellphone data to track targets around the globe. But experts say these new systems allow less technically advanced governments to track people in any nation — including the United States — with relative ease and precision.
  • It is unclear which governments have acquired these tracking systems, but one industry official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to share sensitive trade information, said that dozens of countries have bought or leased such technology in recent years. This rapid spread underscores how the burgeoning, multibillion-dollar surveillance industry makes advanced spying technology available worldwide.

    “Any tin-pot dictator with enough money to buy the system could spy on people anywhere in the world,” said Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, a London-based activist group that warns about the abuse of surveillance technology. “This is a huge problem.”

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  • Security experts say hackers, sophisticated criminal gangs and nations under sanctions also could use this tracking technology, which operates in a legal gray area. It is illegal in many countries to track people without their consent or a court order, but there is no clear international legal standard for secretly tracking people in other countries, nor is there a global entity with the authority to police potential abuses.
  • tracking systems that access carrier location databases are unusual in their ability to allow virtually any government to track people across borders, with any type of cellular phone, across a wide range of carriers — without the carriers even knowing. These systems also can be used in tandem with other technologies that, when the general location of a person is already known, can intercept calls and Internet traffic, activate microphones, and access contact lists, photos and other documents.

    Companies that make and sell surveillance technology seek to limit public information about their systems’ capabilities and client lists, typically marketing their technology directly to law enforcement and intelligence services through international conferences that are closed to journalists and other members of the public.

  • Yet marketing documents obtained by The Washington Post show that companies are offering powerful systems that are designed to evade detection while plotting movements of surveillance targets on computerized maps. The documents claim system success rates of more than 70 percent.

    A 24-page marketing brochure for SkyLock, a cellular tracking system sold by Verint, a maker of analytics systems based in Melville, N.Y., carries the subtitle “Locate. Track. Manipulate.” The document, dated January 2013 and labeled “Commercially Confidential,” says the system offers government agencies “a cost-
    effective, new approach to obtaining global location information concerning known targets.”

  • Verint can install SkyLock on the networks of cellular carriers if they are cooperative — something that telecommunications experts say is common in countries where carriers have close relationships with their national governments. Verint also has its own “worldwide SS7 hubs” that “are spread in various locations around the world,” says the brochure. It does not list prices for the services, though it says that Verint charges more for the ability to track targets in many far-flung countries, as opposed to only a few nearby ones.

    Among the most appealing features of the system, the brochure says, is its ability to sidestep the cellular operators that sometimes protect their users’ personal information by refusing government requests or insisting on formal court orders before releasing information.

  • Verint, which also has substantial operations in Israel, declined to comment for this story. It says in the marketing brochure that it does not use SkyLock against U.S. or Israeli phones, which could violate national laws. But several similar systems, marketed in recent years by companies based in Switzerland, Ukraine and elsewhere, likely are free of such limitations.
  • The tracking technology takes advantage of the lax security of SS7, a global network that cellular carriers use to communicate with one another when directing calls, texts and Internet data.

    The system was built decades ago, when only a few large carriers controlled the bulk of global phone traffic. Now thousands of companies use SS7 to provide services to billions of phones and other mobile devices, security experts say. All of these companies have access to the network and can send queries to other companies on the SS7 system, making the entire network more vulnerable to exploitation. Any one of these companies could share its access with others, including makers of surveillance systems.

  • Companies that market SS7 tracking systems recommend using them in tandem with “IMSI catchers,” increasingly common surveillance devices that use cellular signals collected directly from the air to intercept calls and Internet traffic, send fake texts, install spyware on a phone, and determine precise locations.

    IMSI catchers — also known by one popular trade name, StingRay — can home in on somebody a mile or two away but are useless if a target’s general location is not known. SS7 tracking systems solve that problem by locating the general area of a target so that IMSI catchers can be deployed effectively. (The term “IMSI” refers to a unique identifying code on a cellular phone.)

  • (Privacy International has collected several marketing brochures on cellular surveillance systems, including one that refers briefly to SkyLock, and posted them on its Web site. The 24-page SkyLock brochure and other material was independently provided to The Post by people concerned that such systems are being abused.)
  • Another company, Defentek, markets a similar system called Infiltrator Global Real-Time Tracking System on its Web site, claiming to “locate and track any phone number in the world.”

    The site adds: “It is a strategic solution that infiltrates and is undetected and unknown by the network, carrier, or the target.”

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    The Verint company has very close ties to the Iraeli government. Its former parent company Comverse, was heavily subsidized by Israel and the bulk of its manufacturing and code development was done in Israel. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comverse_Technology

    "In December 2001, a Fox News report raised the concern that wiretapping equipment provided by Comverse Infosys to the U.S. government for electronic eavesdropping may have been vulnerable, as these systems allegedly had a back door through which the wiretaps could be intercepted by unauthorized parties.[55] Fox News reporter Carl Cameron said there was no reason to believe the Israeli government was implicated, but that "a classified top-secret investigation is underway".[55] A March 2002 story by Le Monde recapped the Fox report and concluded: "Comverse is suspected of having introduced into its systems of the 'catch gates' in order to 'intercept, record and store' these wire-taps. This hardware would render the 'listener' himself 'listened to'."[56] Fox News did not pursue the allegations, and in the years since, there have been no legal or commercial actions of any type taken against Comverse by the FBI or any other branch of the US Government related to data access and security issues. While no real evidence has been presented against Comverse or Verint, the allegations have become a favorite topic of conspiracy theorists.[57] By 2005, the company had $959 million in sales and employed over 5,000 people, of whom about half were located in Israel.[16]"

    Verint is also the company that got the Dept. of Homeland Security contract to provide and install an electronic and video surveillance system across the entire U.S. border with Mexico. 

    One need not be much of a conspiracy theorist to have concerns about Verint's likely interactions and data sharing with the NSA and its Israeli equivalent, Unit 8200. 
Paul Merrell

Court gave NSA broad leeway in surveillance, documents show - The Washington Post - 0 views

  • Virtually no foreign government is off-limits for the National Security Agency, which has been authorized to intercept information “concerning” all but four countries, according to top-secret documents.

    The United States has long had broad no-spying arrangements with those four countries — Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — in a group known collectively with the United States as the Five Eyes. But a classified 2010 legal certification and other documents indicate the NSA has been given a far more elastic authority than previously known, one that allows it to intercept through U.S. companies not just the communications of its overseas targets but any communications about its targets as well.

  • The certification — approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and included among a set of documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowdenlists 193 countries that would be of valid interest for U.S. intelligence. The certification also permitted the agency to gather intelligence about entities including the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the European Union and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

    The NSA is not necessarily targeting all the countries or organizations identified in the certification, the affidavits and an accompanying exhibit; it has only been given authority to do so. Still, the privacy implications are far-reaching, civil liberties advocates say, because of the wide spectrum of people who might be engaged in communication about foreign governments and entities and whose communications might be of interest to the United States.

  • That language could allow for surveillance of academics, journalists and human rights researchers. A Swiss academic who has information on the German government’s position in the run-up to an international trade negotiation, for instance, could be targeted if the government has determined there is a foreign-
    intelligence need for that information. If a U.S. college professor e-mails the Swiss professor’s e-mail address or phone number to a colleague, the American’s e-mail could be collected as well, under the program’s court-approved rules
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  • On Friday, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence released a transparency report stating that in 2013 the government targeted nearly 90,000 foreign individuals or organizations for foreign surveillance under the program. Some tech-
    industry lawyers say the number is relatively low, considering that several billion people use U.S. e-mail services.
  • Still, some lawmakers are concerned that the potential for intrusions on Americans’ privacy has grown under the 2008 law because the government is intercepting not just communications of its targets but communications about its targets as well. The expansiveness of the foreign-powers certification increases that concern.
  • In a 2011 FISA court opinion, a judge using an NSA-provided sample estimated that the agency could be collecting as many as 46,000 wholly domestic e-mails a year that mentioned a particular target’s e-mail address or phone number, in what is referred to as “about” collection.

    “When Congress passed Section 702 back in 2008, most members of Congress had no idea that the government was collecting Americans’ communications simply because they contained a particular individual’s contact information,” Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who has co-sponsored ­legislation to narrow “about” collection authority, said in an e-mail to The Washington Post. “If ‘about the target’ collection were limited to genuine national security threats, there would be very little privacy impact. In fact, this collection is much broader than that, and it is scooping up huge amounts of Americans’ wholly domestic communications.”

  • The only reason the court has oversight of the NSA program is that Congress in 2008 gave the government a new authority to gather intelligence from U.S. companies that own the Internet cables running through the United States, former officials noted.

    Edgar, the former privacy officer at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, said ultimately he believes the authority should be narrowed. “There are valid privacy concerns with leaving these collection decisions entirely in the executive branch,” he said. “There shouldn’t be broad collection, using this authority, of foreign government information without any meaningful judicial role that defines the limits of what can be collected.”

Paul Merrell

U.S. Says It Spied on 89,000 Targets Last Year, But the Number Is Deceptive | Threat Le... - 0 views

  • About 89,000 foreigners or organizations were targeted for spying under a U.S. surveillance order last year, according to a new transparency report. The report was released for the first time Friday by the Office of the Director of Intelligence, upon order of the president, in the wake of surveillance leaks by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.

    But the report, which covers only surveillance orders issued in 2013, doesn’t tell the whole story about how many individuals the spying targeted or how many Americans were caught in the surveillance that targeted foreigners. Civil liberties groups say the real number is likely “orders of magnitude” larger than this.

    “Even if it was an honest definition of ‘target’—that is, an individual instead of a group—that also is not encompassing those who are ancillary to a target and are caught up in the dragnet,” says Kurt Opsahl, deputy general counsel of the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

  • The report, remarkably, shows that the government obtained just one order last year under Section 702 of FISA—which allows for bulk collection of data on foreigners—and that this one order covered 89,138 targets. But, as the report notes, “target” can refer to “an individual person, a group, an organization composed of multiple individuals or a foreign power that possesses or is likely to communicate foreign intelligence information.”

    Furthermore, Section 702 orders are actually certificates issued by the FISA Court that can cover surveillance of an entire facility. And since, as the government points out in its report, the government cannot know how many people use a facility, the figure only “reflects an estimate of the number of known users of particular facilities (sometimes referred to as selectors) subject to intelligence collection under those Certifications,” the report notes.

  • “If you’re actually trying to get a sense of the number of human beings affected or the number of Americans affected, the number of people affected is vastly, vastly larger,” says Julian Sanchez, senior fellow at the Cato Institute. “And how many of those are Americans is impossible to say. But [although] you may not think you are routinely communicating with foreign persons, [this] is not any kind of assurance that your communications are not part of the traffic subject to interception.”

    Sanchez points out that each individual targeted is likely communicating with dozens or hundred of others, whose communications will be picked up in the surveillance.

    “And probably a lot of these targets are not individuals but entire web sites or companies. While [a company like the Chinese firm] Huawei might be a target, thousands of emails used by thousands of employees will be swept up.”

    How many of those employees might be American or communicating with Americans is unknown.

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  • Also revealed in today’s report is the number of times the government has queried the controversial phone records database it created by collecting the phone records of every subscriber from U.S. providers.

    According to the report, the government used 423 “selectors” to search its massive phone records database, which includes records going back to at least 2006 when the program began.

    A search involves querying a specific phone number or device ID that appears in the database. The government has long maintained that its collection of phone records isn’t a violation of its authority, since it only views the records of specific individuals targeted in an investigation. But such searches, even if targeted at phone numbers used by foreigners, would include calls made to and from Americans as well as calls exchanged with people two or three hops out from the targeted number.

  • In its report, the government indicated that the 423 selectors involved just 248 “known or presumed” Americans whose information was collected by the agency in the database. But Opsahl says that both of these numbers are deceptive given what we know about the database and how it’s been used.

    “We know it’s affecting millions of people,” he points out. But “then we have estimated numbers of affected people [that are just] in the three digits. That requires some effort [on the government's part] to find a way to do the definition of the number [in such a way] to make it as small as possible.”

  • One additional figure today’s report covers is the number of National Security Letters the government issued last year to businesses to obtain data on accountholders and users—19,212.

    NSLs are written demands from the FBI that compel internet service providers, credit companies, financial institutions and others to hand over confidential records about their customers, such as subscriber information, phone numbers and e-mail addresses, websites visited, and more.

    These letters are a powerful tool because they do not require court approval, and they come with a built-in gag order, preventing recipients from disclosing to anyone that they have received an NSL. An FBI agent looking into a possible anti-terrorism case can self-issue an NSL to a credit bureau, ISP, or phone company with only the sign-off of the Special Agent in Charge of their office. The FBI has merely to assert that the information is “relevant” to an investigation into international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.

  • The FBI has issued hundreds of thousands of NSLs over the years and has been reprimanded for abusing them. Last year a federal judge ruled that the use of NSLs is unconstitutional, due to the gag order that accompanies them, and ordered the government to stop using them. Her ruling, however, was stayed pending the government’s appeal.
  • According to the government’s report today, the 19,000 NSLs issued last year involved more than 38,000 requests for information.
Paul Merrell

Germany Fires Verizon Over NSA Spying - 0 views

  • Germany announced Thursday it is canceling its contract with Verizon Communications over concerns about the role of U.S. telecom corporations in National Security Agency spying.

    “The links revealed between foreign intelligence agencies and firms after the N.S.A. affair show that the German government needs a high level of security for its essential networks,” declared Germany’s Interior Ministry in a statement released Thursday.

    The Ministry said it is engaging in a communications overhaul to strengthen privacy protections as part of the process of severing ties with Verizon.

    The announcement follows revelations, made possible by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, that Germany is a prime target of NSA spying. This includes surveillance of German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s mobile phone communications, as well as a vast network of centers that secretly collect information across the country.

    Yet, many have accused Germany of being complicit in NSA spying, in addition to being targeted by it.

    The German government has refused to grant Snowden political asylum, despite his contribution to the public record about U.S. spying on Germany.

Paul Merrell

Internet Giants Erect Barriers to Spy Agencies - NYTimes.com - 0 views

  • As fast as it can, Google is sealing up cracks in its systems that Edward J. Snowden revealed the N.S.A. had brilliantly exploited. It is encrypting more data as it moves among its servers and helping customers encode their own emails. Facebook, Microsoft and Yahoo are taking similar steps.
  • After years of cooperating with the government, the immediate goal now is to thwart Washington — as well as Beijing and Moscow. The strategy is also intended to preserve business overseas in places like Brazil and Germany that have threatened to entrust data only to local providers.

    Google, for example, is laying its own fiber optic cable under the world’s oceans, a project that began as an effort to cut costs and extend its influence, but now has an added purpose: to assure that the company will have more control over the movement of its customer data.

  • A year after Mr. Snowden’s revelations, the era of quiet cooperation is over. Telecommunications companies say they are denying requests to volunteer data not covered by existing law. A.T.&T., Verizon and others say that compared with a year ago, they are far more reluctant to cooperate with the United States government in “gray areas” where there is no explicit requirement for a legal warrant.
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  • Eric Grosse, Google’s security chief, suggested in an interview that the N.S.A.'s own behavior invited the new arms race.

    “I am willing to help on the purely defensive side of things,” he said, referring to Washington’s efforts to enlist Silicon Valley in cybersecurity efforts. “But signals intercept is totally off the table,” he said, referring to national intelligence gathering.

    “No hard feelings, but my job is to make their job hard,” he added.

  • In Washington, officials acknowledge that covert programs are now far harder to execute because American technology companies, fearful of losing international business, are hardening their networks and saying no to requests for the kind of help they once quietly provided.

    Robert S. Litt, the general counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which oversees all 17 American spy agencies, said on Wednesday that it was “an unquestionable loss for our nation that companies are losing the willingness to cooperate legally and voluntarily” with American spy agencies.

  • Mr. Smith also said the company was setting up “transparency centers” abroad so that technical experts of foreign governments could come in and inspect Microsoft’s proprietary source code. That will allow foreign governments to check to make sure there are no “back doors” that would permit snooping by United States intelligence agencies. The first such center is being set up in Brussels.

    Microsoft has also pushed back harder in court. In a Seattle case, the government issued a “national security letter” to compel Microsoft to turn over data about a customer, along with a gag order to prevent Microsoft from telling the customer it had been compelled to provide its communications to government officials. Microsoft challenged the gag order as violating the First Amendment. The government backed down.

  • Many point to an episode in 2012, when Russian security researchers uncovered a state espionage tool, Flame, on Iranian computers. Flame, like the Stuxnet worm, is believed to have been produced at least in part by American intelligence agencies. It was created by exploiting a previously unknown flaw in Microsoft’s operating systems. Companies argue that others could have later taken advantage of this defect.

    Worried that such an episode undercuts confidence in its wares, Microsoft is now fully encrypting all its products, including Hotmail and Outlook.com, by the end of this year with 2,048-bit encryption, a stronger protection that would take a government far longer to crack. The software is protected by encryption both when it is in data centers and when data is being sent over the Internet, said Bradford L. Smith, the company’s general counsel.

  • Hardware firms like Cisco, which makes routers and switches, have found their products a frequent subject of Mr. Snowden’s disclosures, and their business has declined steadily in places like Asia, Brazil and Europe over the last year. The company is still struggling to convince foreign customers that their networks are safe from hackers — and free of “back doors” installed by the N.S.A. The frustration, companies here say, is that it is nearly impossible to prove that their systems are N.S.A.-proof.
  • In one slide from the disclosures, N.S.A. analysts pointed to a sweet spot inside Google’s data centers, where they could catch traffic in unencrypted form. Next to a quickly drawn smiley face, an N.S.A. analyst, referring to an acronym for a common layer of protection, had noted, “SSL added and removed here!”
  • Facebook and Yahoo have also been encrypting traffic among their internal servers. And Facebook, Google and Microsoft have been moving to more strongly encrypt consumer traffic with so-called Perfect Forward Secrecy, specifically devised to make it more labor intensive for the N.S.A. or anyone to read stored encrypted communications.

    One of the biggest indirect consequences from the Snowden revelations, technology executives say, has been the surge in demands from foreign governments that saw what kind of access to user information the N.S.A. received — voluntarily or surreptitiously. Now they want the same.

  • The latest move in the war between intelligence agencies and technology companies arrived this week, in the form of a new Google encryption tool. The company released a user-friendly, email encryption method to replace the clunky and often mistake-prone encryption schemes the N.S.A. has readily exploited.

    But the best part of the tool was buried in Google’s code, which included a jab at the N.S.A.'s smiley-face slide. The code included the phrase: “ssl-added-and-removed-here-; - )”

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